Confederate Bad Boys

“Rooney” Lee wasn’t the only lonely southerner at Harvard before the turn of the century. He was accompanied by architect Henry Hobson Richardson, Class of 1859, who designed the landmark Trinity Church at Copley Square and our very own Sever Hall.

But Lee and Richardson, before leaving Harvard for quite different careers, each had a bad boy streak. According to Faculty records, the duo was admonished for absence from church, tardiness, sleeping during class, and slipping grades.

As punishment, Richardson couldn’t return to his New Orleans home over break, but instead had to hit the books to make up for snoozing through lecture.

Even if he had been able to have a wild spring break back in Louisiana, he probably would’ve stayed up north. His stepfather wrote in a concerned letter to the University that Richardson had not written home in more than a year, much less visited.

After graduating from Harvard, Richardson again eschewed the South for the École des Beaux Arts in Paris to study architecture. Richardson’s checks from home quickly dried up after the Civil War broke out, but instead of returning home, he headed to New York and then Massachusetts, where he spent most of his adult life.

Ironically, after his death in 1886, the Harvard Monthly wrote, “He was a southerner, and nobody can understand him or his career who does not keep that fact always in mind.”

For a guy who didn’t even write letters to his southern home, calling him a thorough southerner seems, at best, a dubious characterization.